– Traces of water and carbon found in a sample from the asteroid Bennu
NASA presents the results of an analysis of a sample of debris dropped by a probe above Earth about three weeks ago. Preliminary results inspire researchers.
Chunks of coal, black-and-gray pieces and dust from the asteroid Bennu are found in a laboratory at NASA. Three weeks ago, the Osiris-Rex probe dropped a container containing the precious cargo while flying by Earth. The capsule landed as planned in the Utah desert and was recovered. It is the first asteroid sample that NASA has been able to successfully bring to Earth, and it is the largest sample ever taken.
According to NASA, about 200 scientists used 60 different analysis methods to examine approximately 250 grams of extraterrestrial material. X-ray diffraction analyses, electron micrographs, infrared measurements, and computer tomography gave an idea of what the sample contained. Wednesday NASA presented the first results: They discovered the compounds of carbon and water, which are the basic components for the emergence of life. This may provide answers to the really big questions: How did life come to Earth? And: How can large asteroids seriously collide with Earth?
The arm of the mechanism touched the asteroid
So far the mission is going well for NASA. There have been no mishaps since the launch vehicle was launched in 2016. After the Osiris-Rex probe entered orbit around Bennu, it approached the rock within a few meters in October 2020. Using a type of robotic arm, the spacecraft touched the surface of the asteroid for about five seconds. , and expelled pressurized nitrogen to stir up the material, which the probe then sucked up and returned to Earth.
This is not the first time that asteroid material has been brought to Earth by humans. In 2005, the Japanese Hayabusa probe landed on an asteroid. In 2010, the first soil samples from this celestial body were brought to Earth, less than one gram, and in December 2020, the follow-up mission Hayabusa 2 brought 5.4 grams of “black sand-like particles” to the asteroid Ryugu.
It was said last February In the scientific magazine “Science”.The material extracted from Ryugu contains “complex organic molecules” and amino acids. The researchers even found a building block of ribonucleic acid (RNA) in the crumbs, a sister molecule of genetic material to DNA. This is great evidence that life may not be as unique as many on Earth imagine.
“In the next few months and years, we will definitely rewrite history a little bit.”
Mackenzie Lystrup, NASA
NASA has now brought the equivalent of nearly a pound of butter to Earth, and thus a larger amount of asteroid material than all previous probes. There have been other flights to asteroids, but no other probe has been able to return material to Earth yet. NASA Administrator Bill Nelson spoke Wednesday about a “picture book mission.” The sample will help scientists around the world investigate the origins of life and our planet. “In the next few months and years, we will certainly rewrite history a little bit,” NASA Administrator Mackenzie Listrup promised. It remains unclear whether this means NASA will soon have something bigger to report, though it may not be extraterrestrial footprints.
Osiris Rex was launched in September 2016 and arrived on Bennu about two years later. The asteroid, named after an ancient Egyptian god, is about 550 meters in diameter and could make its closest approach to Earth in 150 years. Even if the risk of collision is very low, NASA Bennu is one of the most dangerous asteroids currently known.